Welcome back IT Crew...
I had actually been thinking for some time about how to best tackle this hard question, without getting into a rant, or this article possibly becoming a mini eBook on it's own.
I remember a time in my life where I was desperate to get started in my career. I was working a minimum wage at the time, and even just a small increase in wage, would have been life changing for me at the time.
To give further context, during this time in my life, I was in my first year in college, struggling financially, and I already had a newborn on the way. The answer to this question wasn't so obvious then, and I kept holding out to get started in my career. Now 15 years later, I'd like to pass on my wisdom and experience to help you jumpstart and make the transition quicker.
I decided the best way to tackle this question, is to make this blog article short and simple, by answering for very key questions people have questions to. And for those who want a more detailed explanation, I can probably cover those in an eBook on it's own.
Topic 1: Do I need a college degree?
As many of us grown up, we have often been told that in order to be successful in our careers, you need to have a degree, the short answer is that this isn't simply not true, especially to get started in I.T.
I am not going to say that you don't need a degree in the long term and there aren't any benefits towards having a degree but since we are primarily focusing in getting started in I.T., the only thing you really need is just to get your foot in the door.
If you do opt to get your degree in I.T. , by all means but don't let this be the reason to not get started. This is the mistake I made, waiting....and... waiting, for a degree that seemed to take forever to arrive. You can change your financial situation much quicker.
Topic 2: So what should I focus on instead?
My best recommendation to help you get started and hired right away, are your skillsets. That being said, it can take even up to a couple years to learn everything you need to learn, and still have no practical experience. Which leads me to guide you towards a practical path.
Although you don't have to get certifications, it will honestly really help and help solidify your knowledge to your potential first employer.
Start studying for the CompTIA A+ Certification and right after that, get into the CompTIA Network+ Certification. If you gained those two certifications, your changes to get your first stepping stone role into IT has increased significantly.
Realistically, give yourself about 3 months to study each one. While doing this, take every opportunity as possible to do labs and side projects to gain experience.
For example: As you are learning the A+ Cert or the Network+
1. Open a computer, and get familiar with the physical components of a device, and do a small project by upgrading your own hard drive on your machine.
2. Download GNS3, and start building a basic network. Even if none of it makes sense at first, as time goes by, you will get familiar with it.
3. Setup up your own basic network at home, factory reset your wireless router, and re-set it up from scratch, as you get familiar with the subnets, wifi name and password, and even IP reservations.
Topic 3: So I gained the knowledge, and cert, now what?...
First of all, once you have made it this far, congratulations!!! Your hard effort has been well worth it, it's time for us to start getting you practical experience.
While we are gaining our practical experience, we can do this in several different ways, the first method, and the one I used in the beginning, was taking on project based work for people. We can go the non paid route or the paid route. If you feel like you are still in the learning phase, and want to build some confidence, try working for a non-for profit organization where they desperately need volunteer based work to get items done.
There is never a short need for people to help out with fixing laptops, helping with the Wi-Fi, setting up printers, and overall, helping people with their basic computer needs.
Once you have built up enough confidence, and you still need more practical experience, it's time to do some consulting work, and there is a vast amount of growth in platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.
Finally: It's time to get a full time role....
By this point in time my friend, you have spent your first six months to twelve months, studying hard, gaining knowledge, and getting practical experience.
I leave it at such a big open range because everyone is different in their levels of confidence before venturing out to get a full time job. But please, don't procrastinate and don't let analysis paralysis get the best of you, it's time to apply for a full time job.
We will be applying to a variety of IT jobs that in all honestly, all have very similar functions. Job listings such as
- IT Support
- IT Specialist
- Service Desk
The list goes on but overall, as you read job descriptions, you will notice a pattern of similarity. My best advice, as you are reading the job descriptions, is to focus on roles where you do actual "Technical Troubleshooting", this is absolutely critical because, this is where you will gain the experience you need later on to not only leave this level of IT but to get to the next role, where you will have a better pay out and you will work on more desired projects in the long term.
With that in mind, I hope this has been very insightful to you, keep pushing on IT Crew!